As people age, it is not uncommon to lose function and slow down in ways that are hard to control. Getting sufficient nutrition while ageing can, however, be controlled. People should do all they can to ensure nutritional requirements are met as they age.
Malnutrition is the persistent deficit or malabsorption of one or multiple important nutrients, which are normally acquired through a proper diet. While some aspects of ageing are difficult to control, proper nutritional intake is more easily addressed. Getting proper nutrition is a critical need for the elderly.
There are many factors that cause people to become malnourished while ageing. Some include medical factors, such as reduced appetite, dental or oral problems, reduced smell and taste, and medical conditions that cause a person simply to eat less. Lifestyle can play a role as well, especially in elderly people who live alone and eat less as a result, or in those for whom the cost of food is hard to manage. In addition to direct causes, the elderly experience more chronic and acute diseases, many of which require hospitalisation, which can further interfere with obtaining proper nutrition.
Malnutrition is not uncommon. In one study of over 4,500 elderly people from multiple countries, nearly half of those surveyed were at risk for malnutrition, and almost a quarter were diagnosed as being malnourished.1 The risks of malnutrition are serious and include increased chance of infection, slower recovery from illness or injury and overall increased mortality.*
Therefore, it is important for people to make an effort to get sufficient nutrition as they age. Exercise and an active social life are lifestyle behaviours that can help increase appetite but most important, readily available, nutritious foods and even subtle dietary changes to improve food intake are ways to address malnutrition while ageing.2 At Nestlé Health Science, we take ageing-related malnutrition seriously and are actively involved in finding and delivering nutritional therapies to all kinds of patients.
- Kaiser MJ, Bauer JM, Rämsch C, Uter W, Guigoz Y, Cederholm T et al. Frequency of malnutrition in older adults: a multinational perspective using the mini nutritional assessment. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2010 Sep;58(9):1734-8.
- Hickson M. Malnutrition and ageing. Postgrad Med J. Jan 2006; 82(963): 2–8.
*Listed symptoms are not all-inclusive; actual patient symptoms may vary.